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Natural gas deregulation has increased consumer choices. Georgia consumers now have the option of receiving natural gas service from certificated marketers. When selecting a marketer, consumers should have a clear idea of what they expect from their natural gas marketer. This can range from a marketer that can provide good customer service to a marketer that can give you the lowest price. Once you have compiled a list of expectations, prioritize them according to importance and select the marketer that you think can best meet your expectations. Here are a few points to consider when selecting a gas marketer.
WHAT IS THE MARKETER’S CUSTOMER SERVICE RECORD?
The customer service reputation of the company is one of the most important aspects of choosing a natural gas marketer. Consumer’s should decide what levels of customer service they expect from their marketer and choose the marketer that comes closest to meeting their expectations. Among the things to consider are:
Marketer’s call center performance –this can easily be determined by calling the customer service line at several points throughout the day and keeping a record of how long you were waiting to speak to a representative.
Attitude and knowledge of the marketer’s customer service representatives- have a question prepared each time you call and see how adequately the representatives can answer your questions. This is also a good time to rate whether the representative are friendly and helpful.
Call center hours of operation- be sure you select a gas marketer with call center hours that can adequately support your needs.
Toll free number- if the marketer’s local (within the state) business office is not in your local calling area, do they have a toll free number established for customer’s to call?
How quickly do they handle customer disputes- find out if the marketer has an established customer dispute policy. This will save a lot of time and energy later if you were to have a dispute with your bill.
Does the marketer have a good reputation- this is a perfect opportunity to consult friends and family who may be able to tell you about their experience with a specific marketer. Also consider, the marketer’s record of reliability and how long the company has been in the natural gas business.
Check the marketer scorecard on the PSC web site- the scorecard shows how many of each marketer’s customers called the PSC because they were unable to get a resolution or a satisfactory response to a complaint or inquiry from their respective marketer.
HOW DO THEIR PRICES COMPARE TO OTHERS IN THE NATURAL GAS MARKET IN GEORGIA?
The best way for you to compare marketers’ prices is to give the marketers your usage in therms for a sample month and your premise’s demand factor, or Dedicated Design Day Capacity (DDDC), which represents the cost of delivering gas to your home on the system for the coldest day of the year. These two pieces of information will allow the marketers to specifically quote what their charges would be for a given month. You can find both pieces of information on your current gas bill. Please keep in mind that all marketer bills are different so if you are having trouble finding this information on your bill, contact your current marketer. Remember to have your most recent gas bill with you when speaking with a marketer for easy reference.
Understand all the costs associated with bringing gas to your home. Compare these costs to your current marketer and/or any other marketer you are considering.
Carefully consider all the pricing plans the marketer offers. Be sure that you understand the marketer’s pricing plans before you choose a particular plan. Some pricing plans may have additional fees associated with them.
Is the rate for the pricing plan fixed or variable? A fixed rate will remain the same for a specific period of time, normally 12 months, and requires that customers remain on the plan for that length of time or be assessed a penalty for early termination. A variable rate can change monthly and it is important to understand why and when the rates may change.
Discounts. Does the marketer provide any discounts for its customers? Certain individuals may qualify for a senior citizen discount with the marketer and/or AGL.
WHAT ARE THE MARKETER’S TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF SERVICE?
Terms and conditions are an important step in selecting a marketer. This is where you will find information on the marketer’s deposit requirements, disconnection and reconnection policy, payment and billing options, and credit and collection procedures. You may be tempted to not read the fine print, but knowing all the pertinent information beforehand is essential in order make the right decision.
Carefully read all materials provided to you by the marketer. If there is anything you do not understand, call the marketer and ask for clarification.
Inquire about billing and payment options. Find out what forms of payment a marketer accepts and if there are any fees associated with making credit card payments or automatic draft payments. Will you have the same billing cycle every month or will it change according to when your meter is read? How quickly does the marketer expect payment once the bill is mailed? What is their late payment fee?
What is the marketer’s procedure for assessing a deposit? Do they base the amount of the deposit on your credit history or utility payment history? Will they require the deposit before you sign up or will they allow you to pay it in installments? What do you have to do to ensure you receive your deposit back?
What are their disconnect and reconnect fees? Most marketers charge a fee for disconnecting, reconnecting, and establishing service. These fees vary by marketer, so make sure you understand what the fees are and the circumstances under which they will be assessed.
Is there a cancellation fee? A cancellation fee is normally charged if a consumer is under a fixed rate contract and they break the contract before the end of the contract term. This charge also varies by marketer.
What are the marketer’s switching procedures and fees? Will the marketer notify you if there is a problem with your switch request being completed as scheduled. What fee will the marketer charge if you want to switch to another marketer? How long will it take for your switch to be completed?
Georgia Public Service Commission
244 Washington Street, SW
Atlanta, GA 30334
Fax: (404) 463-6683